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Businessman linked to takeover of Morecambe FC returns to watch club

Sarbjot Johal, second right at the front, at Saturday's game. Photo by Matthew Gardner.

A businessman linked with a takeover of Morecambe FC returned to watch the Shrimps at the weekend.

Sarbjot Johal watched Morecambe’s game against Stockport County from a VIP box at the Mazuma Mobile Stadium on Saturday.

Mr Johal's surprise appearance, taking his seat shortly after kick-off, was the first time he had attended a match at Morecambe's ground this season.

He began his attempt to buy the Shrimps last season, but the sale has not been completed.

Morecambe FC’s owners, Bond Group, put the club up for sale in September 2022 and in the months that followed, 21-year-old Mr Johal engaged in protracted talks hoping to complete a proposed takeover with his company Sarb Capital Ltd.

He attended several games at the Mazuma last season and also met with supporters to outline his vision for the club's future.

In February, co-chairman Graham Howse said: "Sarbjot Johal is eager to start the project to take the club on to a new level, subject to satisfactorily navigating the EFL Owners and Directors’ test.

"Sarbjot, through his company Sarb Capital, has recently purchased equity in the club, injecting more than useful income into us.

"I am, along with Sarbjot, keen that the process should now move on at pace to come to a positive conclusion."

The English Football League (EFL) has to approve any prospective new owner of the club and in February, they invited Mr Johal to provide more information to enable a deal to progress.

In a statement at the time, they said: ‘’As with any proposed change of control at an EFL club, there are a number of requirements that need to be met in accordance with EFL regulations which primarily relate to the Owners and Directors’ Test self-declaration, providing Future Financial Information, along with evidencing the source and sufficiency of any funding.

‘’Whilst some of the information requested several months ago has been received, further details are still required.

‘’No approval on any change of control at Morecambe will be made until the proposed purchaser and club satisfy in full the requirements of the EFL’s regulations and the appropriate levels of due diligence are completed.’’

Mr Johal's company made a further cash injection into the club after staff wages were delayed in March. Sarb Capital then provided further funds for the club in April.

In June, Shrimps CEO Ben Sadler said the sale process remained "ongoing".

"We are sat on the periphery, supporting the club as we can through this and trying to support the owner with his sale," said Mr Sadler.

"My understanding is that the sale process is still ongoing. We are in constant dialogue with the owner but we are not in control of the sale process whatsoever.  At the times that we've needed to support it by providing information, we have. That's the input we've had.

"The process continues. We are hopeful for everyone's sake that comes to a swift conclusion and that can allow the football club to move on."

There was then no further new information on a possible sale of the club, for several months.

Then last Monday, Morecambe FC’s board of directors issued a lengthy statement outlining grave concerns about the immediate future financial stability of the club, and calling for immediate steps be taken to move forward with a sale.

They said "no potential new owners had gone through the EFL's Owners & Directors Test".

Last week, Sarb Capital Ltd filed accounts to the end of January 2023, which showed the company had total net assets of just over £9 million

Documents lodged with Companies House showed Sarb Capital signed two debenture agreements in October, with a private investment company called Brindley Capital Group, based in Birmingham.

A debenture is a loan agreement in writing between a borrower and a lender that is registered at Companies House. It gives the lender security over the borrower's assets.

Sarbjot Johal is also the founder of Vitanic Holdings Limited, a non-alcoholic beverage company based in Birmingham.

Earlier this year he was named the new chairman of Sikh Channel, the world's first free-to-air Sikh faith television channel, broadcasting on Sky TV.

Sarb Capital also bought out Black Country alloy wheel manufacturer Rimstock, allowing it to continue trading and saving jobs after it fell into administration.

Bond Group Investments have owned Morecambe FC since 2018.

Sarb Capital and Bond Group have not made any official public comment.

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